Spielberg Generation

Posted: June 30, 2010 in Article

You know what makes Steven Spielberg great? He understands his generation. If you watch his movie, there is an underlying resonance of what the Baby Boomers were going through at the time. At least, what Spielberg was going through, which it seems a lot of Boomers were also experiencing.

Look at Raiders of the Lost Ark. Under the adventure story is a theme about getting older. If there is a generational statement in Raiders it’s “Hey, I started getting old. How the hell did that happen?” It’s not the central thesis of the movie or anything, but it’s in there. Temple of Doom has him having a child, and trying to be a good (for lack of a better word) ‘parent’ while working on his own career. I haven’t seen The Color Purple in years and years, so I can’t comment about that. Like wise for Empire of The Sun and Always. However, there is an obvious theme in Last Crusade of “I’ve never really connected with my dad, and that bothers the hell out of me.” which is then complimented with Hook’s theme of “Holy shit, I haven’t connected with my kids either. If I don’t do something the cycle is going to continue.”

All of these statements are things I clearly remember my parent’s friends talking about, worrying about, and experiencing. When these movies came out, they were part of the cultural touchstones for people of that age group. I don’t see something for every movie, Jurassic Park’s only real theme seems to be that raptors are cool. However, Lost World does have a reinforcement of the “I was away working on his my things while you were growing up.” theme, which I know was a thing at the time. Since many of my friends were sort of sitting there going “Yeah, I know. Welcome to the reason all the movies in the next 20 years will be chock full of daddy issues.” Gods, but I hate daddy issues movies, I really do. I have a good relationship with my father and I’m not even remotely emo, so the last 10 to 15 years of film has really failed to touch me.

Right after that, you get another huge touchstone for the Boomers with Private Ryan. This is a movie that seems to be designed for guys born between 1946 and 1952 to turn to their fathers and scream (with tears pouring down their faces) “I UNDERSTAND YOU NOW DADDY! LET US EMBRACE IN OUR UNDERSTANDING WHILE I STILL IGNORE MY OWN KIDS! WAAAAAAAHH!!!!”

And then you have A.I.

I don’t know the deeper meaning of A.I. because I’m still waiting for that movie to end. I poke my head back in the theater every once in a while, and it’s still going on. Minority Report is just loaded up with regrets about not having enough time for all the things, blah, blah, blah, change the record. After that, you get a spate of movies I haven’t actually seen. I missed most of his ‘00s out put, except for Crystal Skull, which does contain that “We’re growing old now and we’re looking back at all the things we missed while we were busy working.” and again, that seems very much to be where the mentality of the boomers seems to be. Spielberg has more or less spent the last 30 odd years with his finger on the pulse of his generation.

I know Generation X is supposed to be a more diverse group than any previous generation, but surely some of these things are universal. Strangely though, I haven’t seen a lot of directors that make movies I really connect with. Edgar Wright has done alright with Spaced, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, although Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World has so far left me feeling cold and asking “Why aren’t I into this?” I feel like I should totally be excited for it, but I’m just not. My point is that there doesn’t seem to be a great director like this for our generation, which could just be my perception since, as I say, I totally fail to connect with movies that are neck deep in daddy issues.


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